Prohibition of the Corsican in the Assembly of Corsica: a problem of law… and substance


Let’s start this article with a question. What would you think of a government that would proclaim its desire to reduce road safety while at the same time allowing drunk driving and abolishing speed limits? You would probably accuse him of incompetence or hypocrisy, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong.

Relationship with this newsletter, you tell me? Here it is: the same contradiction can be observed in relation to regional languages. Officially, France intends to keep them. In fact, it multiplies solutions going in the opposite direction. Thus, on March 9, the administrative court of Bastia, seized by the prefect, canceled the provision of the internal rules of the Assembly of Corsica, which provided for the possibility of using the historical language of the island during the debate (1). A solution that poses a problem of law and a problem of substance.

Let’s start with the law. Of course, this judgment was expected. Indeed, the elected islanders did not specify in their rules that the remarks made in the half-cycle should be systematically translated into French (2). Their lawyer did try to argue that the use of the Corsican language was not binding, but that was not enough. Referring to the well-known paragraph of Article 2 of the Constitution – “The language of the Republic is French”, the administrative court of Bastia calmly canceled the insulting reception. “This decision was quite predictable,” emphasizes the constitutionalist Véronique Bertil, an expert in this field (3). The judges were content to apply the restrictive case law of the Constitutional Council and the Council of State, according to which article 2 the use of the French language in relation to legal entities governed by public law.

An article designed to fight only with … eng.

Legal analysis seems closed? It’s not an option. Because we must remember that this clause was added to the Basic Law in 1992 with a specific goal: to fight … English, and only with it. 1992 is indeed the year of the Maastricht Treaty and France’s renunciation of its monetary sovereignty. A major move that worried parliamentarians: have we opened the door a little wider to the language of Shakespeare, which is ubiquitous in the financial markets? So they wanted to erect a strong barrier against this increasingly common idiom by revising the Constitution.

But – and this is a fundamental point – they set an imperative condition: this article should never be used against the languages ​​of France! Along with others, Alsatian centrist Adrian Zeller stated: “I would like to hear the Keeper of the Seals assure us that this accuracy will not harm the regional languages.” And he solemnly assured them: “There will be no attacks on politics and respect for the diversity of our regional cultures.” Before adding: “French is the language of the Republic, not the only language of the Republic.” It’s hard to be more clear.

Is it hard to be clear? Not for the Constitutional Council, apparently, which for thirty years has not ceased to refer to this formula in order to … oppose all measures in favor of minority languages ​​in our country, thereby contrary to the will of the Founder. “In this area, the Council does not follow legal considerations. He adheres to an ideological, even dogmatic approach,” sums up Veronique Bertile. Which, in fact, allows you to challenge the legitimacy of the decision of the Bastia court.

Now let’s get to the point. Officially, our country considers its regional languages ​​as wealth. “The languages ​​of France are a national treasure,” Emmanuel Macron wrote in 2021. The law should liberate, not choke […]. The same color, the same accents, the same words: this is not our nation. Braudel writes: “France is called diversity.” “An excellent declaration that we would gladly applaud with both hands… if accompanied by a consistent policy.

Language lives not only with love and fresh water

All linguists know this: language lives not only on love and fresh water. To develop, it must occupy an important place in education, government, business, and also in political life, as is the case in other European democracies. Thus, in Wales, English and Welsh are on an equal footing in the public sector. In Trentino Alto Adige (northern Italy), a citizen can speak in German in court. Greenlandic is the official language in Greenland… And we could multiply the examples.

To say that we are not there is to say nothing. Our country not only does not take equivalent measures, but also systematically opposes such devices, as the administrative court of Bastia just did. “How long, in our opinion, would the French language live in Quebec, as in Paris, if it were absent from school, from the media and from public life, returned to the only private sphere? Why require regional languages? conditions?” asks the linguist Patrick Sauze.

Let’s get along well. It may well be considered that it is necessary to ban Corsican, Occitan, Breton, and Martinique Creole from local assemblies, but in this case one must be intellectually honest and admit that one thereby decides to make these languages ​​disappear. have been present on our earth for over a thousand years. On the other hand, if, as we officially declare, we want to preserve our cultural diversity, we must take the necessary measures. Starting with the change of the Basic Law to bypass the blocking of abuses imposed by the Constitutional Council.

This is good: Emmanuel Macron is now preparing the reform of institutions. Therefore, we will know very quickly whether the president intends to live up to his words and his actions. Or if he should be accused of incompetence and hypocrisy.


(1) Fully available on the Facebook page dedicated to this newsletter (post published March 9 at 15:00).

(2) On the other hand, most debates are held in French. “With regard to written documents, they are systematically written in French, and some are translated into Corsican,” said Nationalist territorial adviser Romain Colonna.

(3) Regional or minority languages ​​and the Constitution. France, Spain, Veronic Bertile, Italy, Bruland, 2008


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